Italian spinner Loro Piana calls for AWI board change

Sheep Central, November 15, 2019

PREMIUM Italian spinner and weaver Loro Piana has publicly supported change in Australian Wool Innovation’s board, while urging AWI to comply with market requirements in animal welfare and sustainability.

As AWI shareholders vote in the 2019 director election, Loro Piana Australian representative Roland Gill has advocated a change in AWI directors “to cease mulesing”, supporting Victorian non-mulesed wool grower and board candidate Noel Henderson.

There are eight candidates in the 2019 AWI election vying for three seats, including re-standing directors former chairman Wal Merriman and David Webster, New South Wales veterinarian Dr Michelle Humphries, NSW wool growers Paul Cocking and George Falkiner, South Australian wool grower Janelle Hocking Edwards and NSW consultant Phil Holmes.

Loro Piana has historically been a major wool buyer of Australia’s premium Merino wool superfine and fine clips and is part of the global luxury group LVMH.

Loro Piana’s head of raw wool procurement, Emanuela Carletti, was in Australia this week and looked at alternatives to mulesing, including sheep freeze branding. She spoke of the need for Australia to face what the retail world is demanding from its suppliers.

On behalf of the company, she formally required AWI to comply with the ethical code of what market leaders consider a must in term of animal welfare and sustainable approach.

“The lack of concrete, alternative solutions to mulesing from AWI, has forced us to look also elsewhere for our raw wool,” she said while visiting Australian growers looking at alternative practices to mulesing.

Ms Carletti said Australia has not been collaborative when it comes to dealing with the mulesing issue.

“Other countries now sell their wool at a premium to Australia and we have turned to them to source our raw fibre.

“We have been long term supporters of Australian wool growers; however, we have now come to a point in which we are no longer willing to purchase wool coming from mulesing,” she said.

“Alternatives exists, in fact other countries supply exactly what the market is demanding.

“Far from being in a position to tell the wool growers in Australia what they should or should not be doing, we only want to make them aware of what the market is requiring and what our company code of conduct and ethical principle demands us to do,” Ms Carletti said.

“Then it is their call and their sole choice.”

Loro Piana’s Australian representative Roland Gill said Australian wool growers should look at the evidence of the marketplace.

“Many firms and mills are paying well above market for NM status declared wool. Mulesing is simply not acceptable at retail level anymore.

“We encourage the research arm of AWI to find a genetic solution quickly and we are willing to help and support in any way.”

Mr Gill said Loro Piana prides itself on serving extremely conscious and demanding clients who trust our company and are willing to buy only if they can trust our whole supply chain.

“We will continue to support Australia’s wool industry, but advocate change in directors to cease mulesing.

“We would love to see people like Noel Henderson, who ceased mulesing in 2011 to bring new ideas and fresh thinking to AWI,” she said.

“People like Noel, with strong corporate governance and global industry experience, can only add value to the AWI board.”

Sheep freeze branding needs validation

Italian top maker Claudio Lacchio accompanied Ms Carletti in Australia and said the sheep freeze branding procedure definitely looked less invasive than traditional mulesing.

“But the international scientific community should express an animal welfare/technical view on it.

“We are currently working with a group of Italian vets and scientists, which in cooperation with Dr John Steinfort and a couple of universities should validate or not the system, as far as they are concerned,” he said.

“Then whether it will be accepted by the animal rights groups is a different story most probably.”

Mr Lacchio believed that while the sheep freeze branding system is under scrutiny and being tested, wool from sheep it is applied to should not fall within the (current National Wool Declaration) non-mulesed category by default — even if this is the way the Australian law is structured — and it should be clearly identified in the selling catalogue.

“It could probably be considered as a better way to prevent the flystrike issue, but I do believe only as a transition method towards a (hopefully) phase out of mulesing all together.”

There is considerable industry discussion and within the current NWD review about defining sheep freeze branding and/or clips in a ‘processed non-mulesing’ category.

On the issue of market acceptance of pain relief, Mr Lacchio said big brands now just accept non-mulesed wool.

“It’s not a matter of being realistic or not, it is more to do with supplying our clients what they require, and today it is all about NM wool.”

Ms Carletti will host Australian and New Zealand wool growers in Milan next week to announce the winner of the company’s World Record Bale award.

Click here to read the Loro Piana press release.


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  1. Mirella Osullivan, December 5, 2019

    As a wool grower who hasn’t mulesed a sheep in 17 years, I must say that I feel all Australian wool growers have been tarred with the same brush here. Our sheep are big, plain-bodied and very fertile. It has not been a difficult process to breed the need for mulesing out of our sheep. When we first started skin scoring and selectively breeding for large frame plain-bodied sheep, it took two years to completely cease the process. In fact, most of our ewes are naturally bare from the breech to the udder. Something, I might add, will never be able to be achieved with a mules. I know there are growers out there like myself and these positives are never reported on. Why? It’s always the negative aspects. I do resent being thrown in the one-size-fits-all basket. We have worked damn hard to get to where we are with our sheep and a little bit of recognition would be nice.

  2. Jodie Green, November 17, 2019

    A genetic solution does not need to be found. It exists already in flocks breeding sheep that do not require mulesing, because of their skin, wool type and traits that allow them to grow and thrive because they’re genetically suited to the environment we require them to live in. AWI needs to provide support and research funds to exponentially replicate these genes to expedite its spread into Australia’s sheep flock. The total benefits of producing an animal that is suited to its environment must be taken into consideration, not the single trait of wool production alone.
    What will be the point of producing large volumes of wool grown on sheep that the consumers of the world reject? The consumers, brands, manufacturers and processors of the world are educated, informed and clearly understand that right now, most of the Australian wool industry is just choosing to ignore the changing demand. Our very own industry is the party which needs to wake up and change the way its sheep are bred and managed for the sake of the future of our industry.

  3. Chick Olsson, November 15, 2019

    We don’t tell Loro Piana how to run their business do we? We don’t ask them how much they are paying their workers, or advise them regarding their business ethics do we?

    This type of ill-advised, non-farmer friendly attitude will drive more and more people into the red meat market away from Merino wool, and there will be little quality wool left for anyone to buy. So good luck to you Loro Piana, you are contributing to the end of the Australian Merino.

    • Donald Cameron, November 15, 2019

      We don’t ask Loro Piana, or Schneider to buy our wool do we?
      We need to be seen to run our businesses ethically don’t we?

      This type of ill-advised market ‘unfriendly’ attitude will drive more retail buyers away from wool and into alternative fibres, force farmers into red meat and there will be little quality wool left for anyone to buy.

      So good luck to you, you are contributing to the end of the Australian Merino.

      • Sherrie Cordie, November 15, 2019

        Well said Donald and hear, hear, Loro Piana. Perhaps the wool industry has a future with the likes of you and Noel Henderson. Dinosaurs became extinct because they couldn’t adapt, let’s ensure the wool industry doesn’t become extinct.

  4. Donald Cameron, November 15, 2019

    AWI must man-up and face what the retail world is demanding.
    There was a time before mulesing and there is no doubt that there will be a time after mulesing.
    It is incumbent upon AWI to encourage wool growers to react to market signals and changing demands.

    Some at AWI claim the credit for the greatly increased recent wool prices, which of course is bulldust of the first order, and if there a skerrick of truth, why take 20 years to increase prices?

    Well said Loro Piana. Hear! Hear!

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